What Is A Faraday Cage? And What Does It Have To With The Pope?
As the cardinals get ready to elect a new head of the Holy See and the Curia, there's been a lot of talk about the high-tech ways in which the Vatican is trying to prevent news leaks. One of the devices in the news is a Faraday Cage. But, what exactly is a Faraday Cage?
Faraday cages shield their contents from static electric fields. An electric field is a force field surrounding a charged particle, such as an electron or proton.
These cages often look distinctly, well, cagelike. Some are as simple as chain-link fences or ice pails. Others use a fine metallic mesh. Regardless of their exact appearance, all Faraday cages take electrostatic charges, or even certain types of electromagnetic radiation, and distribute them around the exterior of the cage.
So how does this prevent information from leaving the Sistine Chapel? Assuming that any leak would come from an electronic device (I.E. - a microphone or "bug" or simply a cell phone), the Faraday Cages that have been installed prevent those devices from being able to transmit.
As a Faraday cage distributes that charge or radiation around the cage's exterior, it cancels out electric charges or radiation within the cage's interior. In short, a Faraday cage is a hollow conductor, in which the charge remains on the external surface of the cage.
Obviously the Vatican has installed other forms of counter-intelligence, but it's safe to say that the Faraday Cage plays a large role in keeping the events of the Papal Conclave confidential.